Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) With N-acetylcysteine

Study Purpose

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease which often has debilitating and potentially life-threatening consequences. The cause of SLE is unknown and current therapies lack specificity and carry significant side-effects. We previously discovered the depletion of glutathione in lymphocytes of patients with SLE and associated this metabolic change with the elevation of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential. This study will titrate to tolerance during an initial 3 month open label period and then subjects will be randomized to one of 2 arms. It was determined by statistical analysis that each group must have 105 subjects. All subjects will be enrolled and evaluated for tolerance of NAC between dosages of 2.4 g/day and 4.8 g/day for 3 months. After A 3-month open-label dose-titration phase, SLE subjects will be randomized into 2 groups of 105 subjects either to continue the tolerated dosage of NAC or switched to equal number of placebo capsules. There will be up to seven study visits per SLE subject, including the screening and wash out visits. Visits 2-6 will be scheduled three months apart. The study will last 13 months with the wash-out visit. Each subject will donate approximately 100 ml of blood for biomarker studies at each visit. Healthy control subjects will donate blood at the same time. They will be matched to the SLE subjects by gender, age within 10 years, and ethnicity. Their blood will be used as reference for biomarker assays. There is a consent form required to participate in the phase II study.

Recruitment Criteria

Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Healthy volunteers are participants who do not have a disease or condition, or related conditions or symptoms

Study Type

An interventional clinical study is where participants are assigned to receive one or more interventions (or no intervention) so that researchers can evaluate the effects of the interventions on biomedical or health-related outcomes.

An observational clinical study is where participants identified as belonging to study groups are assessed for biomedical or health outcomes.

Searching Both is inclusive of interventional and observational studies.

Eligible Ages 18 Years and Over
Gender All
More Inclusion & Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion Criteria:

Age > 18 years old. SLE with ≥ 4 of eleven diagnostic criteria approved by the American College of Rheumatology Stable immunosuppressants (MMF ≤ 3 g/day, azathioprine ≤ 100 mg/day; methotrexate ≤ 15 mg/day) and/or antimalarials (hydroxychloroquine ≤ 400 mg/day) for 30 days prior to screening; stable oral corticosteroids for 2 weeks prior to screening; ≤ 20 mg/day prednisone or equivalent; stable belimumab for 90 days prior to screening; BILAG 2004 index level A disease activity in ≥ 1 organ/system except renal or central nervous system or (ii) BILAG 2004 index level B disease activity in ≥ 2 organs/systems if no level A disease activity is present and (iii) SLEDAI ≥ 6;

Exclusion Criteria:

Acute flare of SLE threatening vital organs and requiring intravenous Pregnant or lactating Moderately serious or serious comorbidities (e.g., diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic renal insufficiency) Patients receiving cyclophosphamide within 3 months Active chronic infections (e.g., HIV, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, mycobacteria); patient with oral steroid-dependent asthma; Infections requiring intravenous antibiotics within a month or oral antibiotics within two weeks of screening; Patients taking (unwilling or unable to stop) NAC or other antioxidants within 1 month of screening Patients who participated in the pilot RCT or are taking daily acetaminophen (

Trial Details

Trial ID:

This trial id was obtained from, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, providing information on publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants with locations in all 50 States and in 196 countries.


Phase 1: Studies that emphasize safety and how the drug is metabolized and excreted in humans.

Phase 2: Studies that gather preliminary data on effectiveness (whether the drug works in people who have a certain disease or condition) and additional safety data.

Phase 3: Studies that gather more information about safety and effectiveness by studying different populations and different dosages and by using the drug in combination with other drugs.

Phase 4: Studies occurring after FDA has approved a drug for marketing, efficacy, or optimal use.

Phase 2
Lead Sponsor

The sponsor is the organization or person who oversees the clinical study and is responsible for analyzing the study data.

State University of New York - Upstate Medical University
Principal Investigator

The person who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the entire clinical study.

Andras Perl, M.D., Ph.D.
Principal Investigator Affiliation State University of New York - Upstate Medical University
Agency Class

Category of organization(s) involved as sponsor (and collaborator) supporting the trial.

Overall Status Not yet recruiting
Countries United States

The disease, disorder, syndrome, illness, or injury that is being studied.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Additional Details

Subjects will take NAC in a dose range of 2.4 g/day to 4.8 g/day which will be titrated to tolerance during an initial 3-month open label period. After the 3-month open label period, patients in each arm will continue taking equal numbers of capsules representing a dosage that has been titrated to tolerance. As an example, the patients tolerating 2.4 g/day, or 4 capsules containing 600 mg of NAC, after 3 months will be randomized to take 4 NAC or 4 placebo (2.4 g/day dextrose) capsules twice daily for the 9 subsequent months. The primary outcome variable will be the response (yes/no) in the SLE Respinder Index or SRI at Month 12 (reduction ≥ 4 points in SELENA-SLEDAI score and therefore also called SRI-4; no new BILAG A organ domain score and no more than 1 new BILAG B organ domain score; and no worsening in Physician's Global Assessment (PGA) score) by ≥ 0.3 points versus baseline). A positive response will also require no treatment failure, defined as the need for non-protocol treatment, i.e., new or increased immunosuppressives or antimalarials; increased or parenteral corticosteroids; or premature discontinuation from study treatment. Corticosteroids can be tapered off at the investigator's discretion, based on disease activity. Four weeks after randomization, once tapered, corticosteroids can only be increased again to the dosage preceding the last taper step; any larger increase will be deemed a treatment failure. In addition, any increase in corticosteroid dosage during the last 3 months of the trial will result in declaration of treatment failure. We will monitor tolerance and safety, and assess SLEDAI, BILAG, FAS, PROMIS, ASRS, prednisone use, liver and bone marrow function as secondary outcomes.

Arms & Interventions


Active Comparator: NAC

2.4 g - 4.8 g of NAC daily starting after 3 month open label titration period.

Placebo Comparator: Placebo

2.4 g - 4.8 g of placebo per day after 3 month open label titration period.


Drug: - N-acetylcysteine

Capsules of NAC, each containing 600 mg of NAC between dosages of 2.4 g to 4.8 g daily

Drug: - Placebo

placebo (sugar) twice daily, daily dosage will match that of NAC that was tolerated between daily dosages of 2.4 g and 4.8 g during the open-label titration phase.

Contact a Trial Team

If you are interested in learning more about this trial, find the trial site nearest to your location and contact the site coordinator via email or phone. We also strongly recommend that you consult with your healthcare provider about the trials that may interest you and refer to our terms of service below.

SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York



SUNY Upstate Medical University

Syracuse, New York, 13210

Site Contact

Andras Perl, M.D., Ph.D.

[email protected]


SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York



SUNY Upstate Medical University

Syracuse, New York, 13210

Site Contact

Joanne M Chilton, B.S.

[email protected]